Guest: Let’s Try Optimistic Futurism! I Did (Sort Of) by Jordan Smith

Will The Future Be Entirely Bad? Can A Good Book About The Future Say Otherwise?

If you’ve read any stories about the future you may be a very gloomy person. After all, isn’t it hard to think of stories about the future that aren’t overall very depressing? In books about the future we see dazzling technology, interesting characters and plot lines, but mostly pervasive negativity, from the classics of Orwell and Huxley, to newer titles like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games. But what if the future is going to be more complicated?

There’s a problem I have with the way in which a lot of these books are looking at the future. In a sense what dystopian authors are saying is that our societies have certain good qualities and they are beginning to slip away. But how do they justify that prediction? Why are they saying we will become the society they claim we will? Or put another way, why is the prediction they’re making about the kind of society we will be salient or likely to be in the near future? The more you can answer that question about the predictions in a dystopian story the more powerful it is.

All of my thoughts in this line of reasoning were of course a great theory about the way dystopia ought to be. But now I’m in the process of writing my own dystopian story, and I’m finding it’s not so easy to take my own advice! When I began writing it I set out to make the predictions I was conveying really have a basis in what was most likely or plausible. This included making some pretty optimistic predictions I believe are fairly likely about society. However, as I was writing I was finding that the story really needed a heavy dose of darkness to come off as something I thought readers would enjoy. Writing optimistic predictions seemed automatically unserious. Writing gloomy predictions seemed automatically cerebral and relevant. Why is that? Isn’t the good news sometimes among the most relevant? Certainly I’d say it is. Continue reading